If you’ve KonMari-ed your home, you know that many of the things you’ve let go were items gifted to you. You knew from the instant you unwrapped the present that it didn’t spark joy, but felt obligated to keep it. Gift giving is very difficult even when you know the person intimately. That’s why gift cards, gift registry, and wishlists are so popular. But if you ask people, however impersonal, most of them much rather just get cash.
The problem is, none of those solve the issue of unnecessarily accumulating more stuff. With every birthday, anniversary, Christmas or Hanukkah, or family member who buys gifts for every Hallmark-created holiday, you’re looking at hundreds to thousands of dollars spent on gifts that will most likely end up in the basement. Meanwhile, instead of feeling grateful, you experience more guilt and anxiety.
The pressure is on the gift givers too, afraid you’ll be offended if they don’t spend enough money or creativity on a gift. Does the thought really count if they just send you a text message with a gift box emoji?
After practicing the KonMari method and making a conscious decision to always choose less clutter and more joy, I finally had the courage to tell my mom to stop buying me stuff. I asked my in-laws to give membership to the zoo or museum the whole family can enjoy. I also provide them with a short list of non-toy gifts that promote such as art supplies, or books. Same goes for birthday parties, I asked for no gifts. Or if they insist, then we ask for a board game that all the kids can play at the party.
Try shifting your focus to give gifts that create shared memories. Experiences such as going to an art exhibit or having a picnic will bring more enjoyment. No need for physical storage space, the memories you create can be recalled at any time to take you back to that happy place again. You can share your experience with others, creating more positive social connections. (Studies have shown that by telling someone else about a good time you had actually made them happier too!)
Experience gifts don’t have to be expensive either. The key is to focus on spending quality time together. Here are some ideas you might want to try:
Gift ideas for kids:
- Spend time doing what your child loves to do but make it extra special. (Because all your kids really want is more quality time with you. So allow yourself to be a kid again!)
- Get all the ingredients to bake a cake together from scratch, decorate it, then eat it!
- Visit a zoo, science or kids museum (Get a membership and use it.)
- Have a sleepover, build a fort for indoor or backyard camping
- Tickets to a game or movie (Instead of souvenirs, take lots of silly pictures and make a collage or photo album)
- Take a road trip together and share stories and play music from your youth (be creative and give the trip a name or theme)
- Coupon book for more story and cuddle time
Gift ideas for friends or couples:
- Treat them to a special lunch or dinner somewhere you’ve never tried, or better yet cook it yourself
- Do something silly together, go to an amusement park, see a psychic, try an Escape Room experience.
- Use your creativity and make a scavenger hunt at home or around town
- Set up a movie marathon, pick a theme, load up on snacks
- Take a day trip to explore new neighborhoods, or grab a coffee and go on a walking tour
- Try a new sport together (Axe throwing?)
Gift Ideas for Elderly Parents:
- Make them a photo book of your favorite memories (get the tissues!)
- Create a photo puzzle and work on it together
- Cooking together using the family recipe. Involve the kids to make the placemats and centerpiece
- Take them to your favorite places
- Make a personalized gift basket with a good book, some tea or coffee, little treats to enjoy while reading. Preferably a book that you’ve read or will read so you can talk about it.
If you don’t have the time, budget, or live far away from the recipient:
There’s a new option I just discovered. It’s a new type of gift card from Giftly.com. It’s a website that you can purchase gift cards in any amount online. Send it as a text, email, printout, or a high-quality greeting card in the mail. The recipient chooses the most convenient way to receive the money: as a gift card in the mail, a credit to their bank account or PayPal. The part I love is that you can suggest something you think they’d enjoy spending the money on!
For example, in our neighborhood, there’s a roller skating rink. They don’t sell gift certificates at the rink, but that was the suggestion for the gift card sent from my in-laws. I accepted the money through PayPal, and we can use the money to pay for our skate rentals and admission! Through this app, we can then share a photo of us having fun at the rink as a thank you reply.
Also, many museum or show tickets are only sold by specific date or time for the admission, which can be difficult not knowing someone else’s availability. Giftly allows you to say what the gift card is for, but even if they end up spending the money on something else, you are still contributing to their joy.
I hope you are inspired by these suggestions to start giving more experiences as gifts than stuff. If you have any unique and fun experience gift ideas? I’d love to read about it in the comments. And follow me on Facebook or Instagram @simplejoywithann.com for daily organizing and joyful living tips!